Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 24th, 2021

The most feared song in jazz, explained

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Extremely clear explanation of the failure and collapse of the Texas power grid

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The videos in this report from ABC 13 News are well worth watching. The grid was 5 minutes away from being down — total blackout — for weeks. Do click that link. From the report:

In the most dangerous part of the night on Sunday, Feb. 14 as the cold set in, grid operators were four minutes and 37 seconds away from a large-scale grid ‘trip,’ which would have led to automatic shutdowns of certain circuits.

That could have led to a long-term outage of millions of customers as technicians would have to do a ‘black start’ of generation facilities. That could’ve taken weeks, leaving Texans in the dark.

Significant power generation was offline for more than 48 hours before power facilities could begin powering back up, data shows. The majority of the power that went offline was natural gas facilities, ERCOT said. The loss in wind power was significantly less, though elevated.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 4:38 pm

Victim That South Dakota AG ‘Didn’t See’ Came Through His Windshield, Investigators Say

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Tom Lawrence reports in MSN News:

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota—South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravsnborg has maintained since his fatal crash last fall that he didn’t see what he’d hit—but a newly released video of his police interview has revealed that the victim’s face literally “came through” his windshield.

In videos released late Tuesday by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, investigators can be seen challenging Ravsnborg’s claim that he didn’t see what it was he struck during the crash on Sept. 12, 2020. Ravsnborg was driving home from a Republican Party event that night when he struck and killed 55-year-old Joe Boever. Boever’s body was only found a day later, however, after Ravsnborg initially called 911 to report only that he’d hit “something” that he thought could have been a deer.

During an interrogation on Sept. 30, investigators noted Boever’s glasses were found inside Ravsnborg’s 2011 Ford Taurus.

“That means his face came through your windshield,” said a North Dakota Bureau of Investigation agent, one of two who questioned Ravnsborg for more than three hours in a pair of sessions.

“His face is in your windshield,” the agent said as Ravnsborg groans. “Think about it.”

Ravnsborg said he didn’t see the glasses, either, even when he later went through the front seat looking for an insurance card to show to Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek, who lives near the crash site and responded to the 911 call.

The agent said the broken glasses found inside Ravnsborg’s car belonged to Boever, who was walking into Highmore when he was struck and killed.

Ravnsborg also was asked why he didn’t see a flashlight Boever was carrying when the crash occurred at 10:24 p.m. When the agents arrived from North Dakota, it was still on, shining “like a beacon,” they said.

The agents also told Ravnsborg they knew he was on the shoulder of the road when the crash occurred. He did not have an explanation for why he was there.

The investigators also noted he had made calls and looked at websites while he was driving from the Republican Party event in Redfield back to Pierre, the state capital. Ravnsborg had clicked on a Real Clear Politics story on Joe Biden and China just before the crash. He told investigators he had set the phone down before the impact.

“I believe I did not do anything wrong,” Ravnsborg said. “I did not see him or anything. I did not know it was a man until the next day.”

The videos were part of a collection of information released Tuesday, more than five months after the crash.

The Republican official, who was charged last week with three misdemeanors—careless driving, failure to remain in his lane, and talking on a cell phone while driving, albeit prior to the crash—has been asked to resign by Gov. Kristi Noem, and articles of impeachment have been introduced in the legislature.

So far, Ravnsborg—pronounced “Rounds-berg”—said he would not step down.

“The Attorney General does not intend to resign. At no time has . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 2:52 pm

Sheryl Sandberg and Top Facebook Execs Silenced an Enemy of Turkey to Prevent a Hit to the Company’s Business

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Facebook upper management are a morally corrupt loot, Sandberg perhaps especially. Jack Gillum and Justin Elliott report in ProPublica:

As Turkey launched a military offensive against Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria in early 2018, Facebook’s top executives faced a political dilemma.

Turkey was demanding the social media giant block Facebook posts from the People’s Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group the Turkish government had targeted. Should Facebook ignore the request, as it has done elsewhere, and risk losing access to tens of millions of users in Turkey? Or should it silence the group, known as the YPG, even if doing so added to the perception that the company too often bends to the wishes of authoritarian governments?

It wasn’t a particularly close call for the company’s leadership, newly disclosed emails show.

“I am fine with this,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s No. 2 executive, in a one-sentence message to a team that reviewed the page. Three years later, YPG’s photos and updates about the Turkish military’s brutal attacks on the Kurdish minority in Syria still can’t be viewed by Facebook users inside Turkey.

The conversations, among other internal emails obtained by ProPublica, provide an unusually direct look into how tech giants like Facebook handle censorship requests made by governments that routinely limit what can be said publicly. When the Turkish government attacked the Kurds in the Afrin District of northern Syria, Turkey also arrested hundreds of its own residents for criticizing the operation.

Publicly, Facebook has underscored that it cherishes free speech: “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and we work hard to protect and defend these values around the world,” the company wrote in a blog post last month about a new Turkish law requiring that social media firms have a legal presence in the country. “More than half of the people in Turkey rely on Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family, to express their opinions and grow their businesses.”

But behind the scenes in 2018, amid Turkey’s military campaign, Facebook ultimately sided with the government’s demands. Deliberations, the emails show, were centered on keeping the platform operational, not on human rights. “The page caused us a few PR fires in the past,” one Facebook manager warned of the YPG material.

The Turkish government’s lobbying on Afrin-related content included a call from the chairman of the BTK, Turkey’s telecommunications regulator. He reminded Facebook “to be cautious about the material being posted, especially photos of wounded people,” wrote Mark Smith, a U.K.-based policy manager, to Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy. “He also highlighted that the government may ask us to block entire pages and profiles if they become a focal point for sharing illegal content.” (Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization, although neither the U.S. nor Facebook do.)

The company’s eventual solution was to “geo-block,” or selectively ban users in a geographic area from viewing certain content, should the threats from Turkish officials escalate. Facebook had previously avoided the practice, even though it has become increasingly popular among governments that want to hide posts from within their borders.

Facebook confirmed to ProPublica that it made the decision to restrict the page in Turkey following a legal order from the Turkish government — and after it became clear that failing to do so would have led to its services in the country being completely shut down. The company said it had been blocked before in Turkey, including a half-dozen times in 2016.

The content that Turkey deemed offensive, according to internal emails, included photos on Facebook-owned Instagram of “wounded YPG fighters, Turkish soldiers and possibly civilians.” At the time, the YPG slammed what it understood to be Facebook’s censorship of such material. “Silencing the voice of democracy: In light of the Afrin invasion, YPG experience severe cyberattacks.” The group has published graphic images, including photos of mortally wounded fighters; “this is the way NATO ally Turkey secures its borders,” YPG wrote in one post.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone provided a written statement in response to questions from ProPublica. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 2:49 pm

The Great Texas Power Rip-Off

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The above is from a blog post by Kevin Drum, which begins:

Two decades ago Texas deregulated its power sector and required 60% of its residents to buy electricity from a retail power company. The other 40% stuck with traditional local utilities. The Wall Street Journal shows us the results [see chart above – LG].

According to the Journal, residential customers have paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities:

From 2004 through 2019, the annual rate for electricity from Texas’s traditional utilities was 8% lower, on average, than the nationwide average rate, while the rates of retail providers averaged 13% higher than the nationwide rate, according to the Journal’s analysis.

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a group that buys electricity for local government use, produced similar findings in a study of the state’s power markets and concluded that high statewide prices relative to the national average “must be attributed to the deregulated sector of Texas.”

So what happens now? Probably . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 2:43 pm

Walter Lippmann on the uses of power

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Walter Lippmann was what we would now call a public intellectual of the early and mid twentieth century. (I owe to one of his dicta that “so” must be used instead of “as” following a negative: “I am as good as he but not so good as she” — a rule I now habitually follow.)  He wrote a thoughtful piece in 1922, which begins:

The democratic fallacy has been its preoccupation with the origin of government rather than with the processes and results. The democrat has always assumed that if political power could be derived in the right way, it would be beneficent.

His whole attention has been on the source of power, since he is hypnotized by the belief that the great thing is to express the will of the people, first because expression is the highest interest of man, and second because the will is instinctively good. But no amount of regulation at the source of a river will completely control its behavior, and while democrats have been absorbed in trying to find a good mechanism for originating social power, that is to say, a good mechanism of voting and representation, they neglected almost every other interest of men. For no matter how power originates, the crucial interest is in how power is exercised. What determines the quality of civilization is the use made of power. And that use cannot be controlled at the source.

If you try to control government wholly at the source, you inevitably make all the vital decisions invisible. For since there is no instinct that automatically makes political decisions which produce a good life, the men who actually exercise power not only fail to express the will of the people, because on most questions no will exists, but they exercise power according to opinions that are hidden from the electorate.

If, then, you root out of the democratic philosophy the whole assumption in all its ramifications that government is instinctive, and that therefore it can be managed by self-centered opinions, what becomes of the democratic faith in the dignity of man? It takes a fresh lease of life by associating itself with the whole personality instead of with a meager aspect of it. For the traditional democrat risked the dignity of man on one very precarious assumption, that he would exhibit that dignity instinctively in wise laws and good government. Voters did not do that, and so the democrat was forever being made to look a little silly by tough-minded men. But if, instead of hanging human dignity on the one assumption about self-government, you insist that man’s dignity requires a standard of living, in which his capacities are properly exercised, the whole problem changes. The criteria that you then apply to government are whether it is producing a certain minimum of health, of decent housing, of material necessities, of education, of freedom, of pleasures, of beauty, not simply whether at the sacrifice of all these things, it vibrates to the self-centered opinions that happen to be floating around in men’s minds. In the degree to which these criteria can be made exact and objective, political decision, which is inevitably the concern of comparatively few people, is actually brought into relation with the interests of men.

There is no prospect, in any time which we can conceive, that the whole invisible environment will be so clear to all men that they will spontaneously arrive at sound public opinions on the whole business of government. And even if there were a prospect, it is extremely doubtful whether many of us would wish to be bothered or would take the time to form an opinion on “any and every form of social action” that affects us. The only prospect which is not visionary is that  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 1:14 pm

An infinite pattern that never repeats

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I did some searching to see where I could buy Penrose tiles — I like the ones with lines rather than curves — and came up empty-handed.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Math, Science, Video

The typewriter

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Many — most? — today have never used a typewriter. (I thinking only of the advanced countries of the West, where the typewriter once was common.) They were ingenious devices, and curious habits had to be developed so that no conscious thought was required to strike the “m” key hard and the “.” lightly so the impression on the paper would be the same. The key was to maiintain a regular rhythm, which with practice could be accelerated. In my typing class memories the sound of Leroy Anderson’s “The Syncopated Clock” still is strong.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 1:00 pm

Great desks

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I happened to come across this video of a fantastic desk:

That turned out to be the tip of a rather large (and ornate and ingenious) iceberg. For example,

But that’s small potatoes compared to:

As you can see, this is a rabbit hole, and you can spend a lot of time being amazed at the design and craftsmanship of these old desks. See also this beautiful desk, this fine (and useful) table, and this desk full of secrets.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 11:02 am

Honeysuckle days are coming, and I’m ready for them

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MR GLO again for prep, and then a very good lather from Mike’s Natural Wild Honeysuckle. His soaps really do require starting with a damp brush and brushing the soap briskly and firmly, generally adding a tiny amount of water along the way to complete the loading.

Phoenix Artisan’s two-tone Ascension (the baseplate is a darker color than cap and handle) did a very nice job. The Ascension is an excellent razor, and it’s occasionally available in metals other than aluminum — copper and stainless steel, for example. I suppose a titanium version is possible, but I’ve not heard anything about a tungsten model, which would be quite hefty.

I dried my perfectly smooth face, applied a splash of Phoenix Artisan’s Honeysuckle aftershave, and welcome the day and the bright sunlight.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2021 at 10:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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